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Acute Disease Epidemiology

Bioterrorism Planning and Preparedness

Integrated Bioterrorism Planning Efforts
South Carolina organized BT planning efforts under the framework of the state Emergency Operations Plan. The BT plan is being developed as part of the state Terrorism Annex. The Mass Casualty Annex includes interim plans for National Strategic Stockpile deployment, post-event smallpox vaccination, and pandemic influenza. Plans for the Columbia Metropolitan Medical Response System and the HRSA regional mass casualty plans will be included. Emergency management partners have collaborated closely to integrate CDC, HRSA, and MMRS into state and county Emergency Operations Plans.

Enhanced Rapid Disease Investigation Capabilities
DHEC enhanced the existing capacity for rapid outbreak investigation at both the state and local level, by partnerships with the State Poison Control Center and State Veterinarian and Agricultural agencies. Rapid notification of reportable conditions has led to several investigations via these new non-traditional sources of data. A fulltime disease surveillance/epidemiology leader and emergency preparedness manager has been placed in each health regional health office, resulting in substantially increased timeliness of reporting and investigation of outbreaks. SC will be the fourth state to install and use the National Electronic Surveillance CDC Base System to rapidly collect and evaluate disease surveillance data.

Increased State Public Health Laboratory Testing
The State Public Health Laboratory increased its BT response by hiring laboratory technologists and a medical microbiologist. These new employees permit 24/7 laboratory coverage for BT response. The public health laboratory also increased its testing capabilities for BT response by bringing on-line real time, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for anthrax, plague, vaccinia, and chicken pox in addition to instrumentation for performing rapid, time resolved fluorometric (TRF) tests for biologic agents.

Rapid Electronic Communication to Our Staff and External Partners
All regional health offices can now link via a teleconferencing system to facilitate meetings and reduce costs. We established 24/7 communication capacities with an automated notification system, which has been used on multiple occasions to enable state and local public health authorities to communicate with hospitals, health care providers, and other response partners. Established redundant communication capability by acquiring high-frequency radios, cell-phones, two-way radios, and backup generators.

Bioterrorism Training and Educational Initiatives
Delivered training to DHEC employees and the medical community on a number of bioterrorism preparedness topics since through one-day workshops on epidemiology methods, certified over 250 DHEC staff as smallpox vaccinators, and provided pre-event smallpox vaccination training programs broadcast via satellite to all local health departments and participating hospitals.

Public Health Preparedness Media Campaigns
Media events during smallpox vaccination activities resulted in numerous print and electronic reports about the agency’s smallpox vaccination program, which has helped educate, inform, and reassure the people of SC that efforts are underway to heighten the level of public health preparedness.